1/4 of the training completed as of last Friday...4 out of 16 weeks done! After our long run, Lisa and I treated ourselves to a pedicure. Although a small thing, it makes me smile and my feet happy...a payoff.
There are actually a few other payoffs that I have experienced from running. Staying in physical shape, having a healthy heart and getting better sleep to name a few. But what God has shown me through my running is a bigger payoff. Paul told the Corinthians, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Cor 9:24-27)
I never paid much attention to this message God sent through Paul until I started running long distances. God gave me the ability to run and through it He opened my eyes spiritually. Let me attempt to explain. As these verses state, you run (or work or play) to win. For me, along with many other runners, I want to finish the races I run and occasionally I like to set a personal record...I am pretty competitive and it gives me a goal in my training. So I discipline my body and spend lots of time (see Lisa's previous post) doing just that. And NO, I don't like running everyday I go for a run...in fact, some days I very much dislike it. I count down every tenth of a mile. But I know that the prize, the "perishable wreath" or PR or t-shirt I get for completing the race, is worth it. God has challenged me to use that same discipline in my spiritual life. I believe two of Satan's greatest tools he uses against me are my feelings and lack of self-control. I used to think if I didn't "feel" like studying God's Word then it would be insincere if I tried. Or if I didn't have the time to pray or serve or give...my list goes on and on. So on the days I didn't feel like studying the Bible or loving my neighbor or I didn't have time to pray I wouldn't. But since I started this long run training stuff, the Spirit has reminded me of this verse and I ask God to give me the desire to be in His Word, the love I need for my neighbor, and to show me time to pray.
This doesn't mean it all fits nicely and conveniently in my life, remember Paul says he makes his body his slave. Therefore I have to practice self-control by saying "no" to some things to make time for others, both in my physical and spiritual training. For example, the Lord has blessed me over and over again for the time I have spent studying the Bible. Last year during the most painful time of my life, I would recall His promises that I had learned over the years in Bible study. I truly believe that the foundation I have in His Word, coupled with prayer, is what got me through last year without losing my mind. It was that tangible training in running that helped me see the meaning of Paul's message in my spiritual training...definitely a big payoff.
But please allow me to clarify... these are spiritual disciplines (or ways to compete well in life and experience some payoffs here on earth) they are NOT a list of things that put you on God's good side or save you...you get there by FAITH in Jesus Christ...and THAT is the imperishable crown or eternal life...the ultimate payoff!